Many more knew our name

Fri, 02/04/2022 - 5:30am
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Tonight it is mild, the snow turned to fog, billowing off the roads and rising from the land. “Haze” is the condition given on the lazy (pre-loaded, lazy for me) app on my phone. It is disconcerting, out of time and place, although even as I write the words I find myself wondering how far back I’d have to go to find a similar observation.
The storm came over the weekend, a bona fide blizzard by a set of standards that seem nonsensical to me. It was a named storm but I’ve no idea the name because I refuse to retain such trivia when I can use my precious remaining brain cells for the date the cut into the Great pond, creating the New Harbor, was made, or when the WCTU Fountain “known as Rebecca at the Well” was set in an awkward, empty bit of land where roads met, creating the focal point of what we whimsically call Fountain “Square.” Why recall some storm when I can use the memory for the various stages of the Southeast
Lighthouse lenses, all first order Fresnels— the largest, set on sea lanes — and the changing characteristics that mirror the times during which they occurred and the unstoppable March of Progress even in a National Landmark building?

A winter storm came at the end of January. It happens. More often than I would have realized were it not for a series of photos on my phone taken over the past several years. There is an ease, I must admit, that I never came close to reaching with a simple camera, abetted by the lack of keeping count over the number of frames used, the lack of worry over the amount of film left on the roll.
It snowed Saturday, that old-fashioned snow we have not seen in a few years, blowing in from all directions, regardless of the formal designation, drifting, perhaps, where it used to, perhaps in slightly different ways.
Obsessing over weather sites made my reaction to a Providence television station’s odd chart of wind gusts, showing New Shoreham and Block Island 10 miles an hour apart. They had readings from two different stations, and as anyone who lives here knows, the wind can vary from one side of the island to another.

Still, I was annoyed at the weather anyway, or at the coverage, or at the wardrobe folks. The guy standing beside the space where the screen with the wind gusts was projected was wearing a sweater, as were most of his male colleagues. I don’t know if the one female I noticed was a meteorologist but she sure looked like an old-fashioned weather girl, with her brightly-colored dress with its swinging hem and short sleeves. “It’s January, we’re in a blizzard, put on a sweater,” I grumbled at the screen.

So, Saturday I wondered whatever today’s equivalent to up and down the dial is, from windy.com with its delightful graphics and generally reliable forecasting, to the silly aforementioned Weather Channel app to my old go-to site before it lost its spark, its connection to various private weather cams, the best of which for me provided a view off the west beach where the ocean could be calm and that in my site was wild and vice versa.

To Weather Underground, or wunderground.com I go and there I find another case of Block Island and New Shoreham overlap and more but annoyingly, the report of the temperature at Quonochontaug, across the ocean on mainland Rhode Island. Look at a pair of shoes on line and receive ads from footwear vendors of all ilk, refuse to “allow location” and one is thrown into Quonnie Purgatory forever.
Like many Rhode Islanders I only use the casual, familial Quonnie because it just takes too much effort to pronounce the full name, which I feel I should, out of respect, even when silently writing it. Ah, for those simple days when the whole maritime forecast from Maine to New Jersey was divided in two, with Block Island the mid-point between Eastport and Cape May. We were known, not some speck fallen off the map a good part of the time, neither Coastal Rhode Island nor one of the Islands.
So many fewer people came and so many more knew our name, we were part of every forecast along the whole of that coast.
The storm wound down, or the snow stopped falling late Saturday. Sunday in the dry cold there were clouds of white rolling over the open fields, and I was sure the lower part of Mansion Road would fill, again, the way it always did, always does, just hasn’t in a while. I sent my older brother photos of the lane behind the house, drifted high, and they stirred memories of the back way to the beach in summer and the chore of trudging through the snow to chop the hole in the pond ice to allow the cows water access and as much as I often wish I had been born just a few years earlier and better known the island of my first cobweb memories, I was very glad I was the younger.
There was no way out Sunday, none of those stretches of wide open fields and back ways of that childhood. Toward day’s end I might have walked out a decade or two ago, but there was nowhere to go, anyway. It was strange, though, when the wind abated, and the sound of the storm lessened, I did not find comfort and sleep long eluded me.
I awoke Monday to reports of it being the coldest morning yet and looked at the blindingly white snow under the bright sun, and a wind of only three miles an hour and despite the ten degree reading felt warm, too warm. There were reports of 78 mph gusts and high tides and crazy drifts but once the wind dies and the sun shines the world changes.
Now the weather summary reads “fog” and I look out to see nothing, not even the flashing red lights of the towers in town that were visible in the “haze” hours. And the Quonnie station is reporting wind gusts of 4 mph. Yes, gusts!